MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Argentina: The Mining Company Takes "no To The Mine" To Court

Published by MAC on 2006-10-22
Source: Peoples Assemby of Neighbours of Esquel

ARGENTINA

"IF YOU OPPOSE THE MINE, I WILL SUE YOU"

The mining company takes "NO TO THE MINE" to Court

Press release: Peoples Assemby of Neighbours of £squel

22nd October 2006

Esquel, Chubut:. The mining company Minera El Desquite S.A., subsidiary of the Canadian company Meridian Gold Inc. (1), has started a legal action against six neighbours of this city arguing that they disseminated information related to the mining plans about "changing the will of Esquel". The action has been submitted to a court in Buenos Aires, under of Judge Luis Schelgel.

Two of the neighbours that have been a target of the legal actions work as journalists in local radio FM Station. They had aired a recording that the neighbors themselves had denounced during a press conference. The recording is of a meeting among advisors and heads of Meridian in September 2003, at which they strategized to conspire against this community and "to twist the population's decision" that had clearly rejected the mining activities based on the hist and the pollution mining produces.

During the meeting, the advisors and Median personnel revealed their connections with various candidates who ran for Governor of Chubut Province at the elections in 2003; they also mentioned their contacts with Ministers and other representatives of the national government.

They also talked about using their employees and their families to influence local neighbourhood meetings, among other measures aimed to get what they call a "social license to operate". But the perversity of what the neighbours had denounced is reflected in one of the statements made by one of the company's heads which was literally: "in Esquel, noone should know that we will twist the people's will".

Due to all these new events, the neighbors organized a well attended Assembly this weekend where they started to discuss the strategies to reject and make public this conspiracy against the community, coming from the mining sector. Among other decisions, people ratified their commitments to the public demonstrations organized every 4th of each month and other local and national actions.

A respectful conspiracy

After the referendum of March 2003, when 81% of the population voted against the mining project, Meridian Gold issued a press release in which it promised to "respect the will of the population of Esquel".

However, a few months after the referendum, in the above mentioned meeting of September 2003, the mining company planned how they would change the popular rejection to the exploitation of a silver and gold mine. Local and US company authorities, together with the US consulting firm Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) (2) and the local Braga Menéndez y Asociados (3) where part of the meeting.

If they go against one of us, they are going against all

The persecution of half a dozen neighbors is interpreted in Esquel as an attack on the community as a whole - which rallying in the streets every 4th day of the month against the mine (4).

This way, the decision to go to court and persecute neighbours that oppose extractive projects, is made clear. And what's more, they are determined to ignore Esquel people's sovereign will against mining projects.

The demand confirms the total veracity of the decisions taken in the meeting in 2003 and clearly shows there's a conspiracy to execute the mining project regardless of the fact that it would use open pit mining and cyanide lixiviation methods that had been banned by law in the province of Chubut (5).

First legal attack against the neighbours

While tens of communities throughout the country organize non-violently against mining projects, this demand is the first time there has been a legal attack against neighbors of a mining project.

The persecution has its ideological roots in the Argentinian mining laws themselves, which puts mining interests above all community or regional interestw. Those laws prioritize fiscal, tariff and currency exchange benefits for national and foreign mining companies.

In this regard, the official mining policy, supported by provincial governments and sponsored by the mining sector, produces all types of harassment for the communities that resist and defend sustainable production and natural goods as water and soil.

ASAMBLEA DE VECINOS AUTOCONVOCADOS DE ESQUEL
sosesquel@yahoo.com.ar
www.noalamina.org

Contacts:
Matilde Lenzano +54-02945-453713
Pablo Quintana +54-02945_696341
Andres Campos +54-02945_502363/ Lino Pizzolon +54-02945_453679/ Silvia Perez +54-02945-454811
Chuni Botto +54-02945-452521

1) In the text of the legal action to the neighbors, the company declares that among its shareholders there's a group called Meridian Gold Holdings (Cayman) Ltd., which could suggest a potential headquarter in the Cayman Islands, a well known fiscal paradise and financial center for money laundering.

2 )BSR is based in San Francisco and specializes in "responsible social practice", advising companies that face or anticipate conflicts as a result of their activities. Among their clients it is possible to find American Express Company, The Coca-Cola Company, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Ford Motor Company, General Electric Corporation, General Motors Corporation, IBM, Shell International, Sony Corporation and great mining companies Newmont Mining Corporation, Placer Dome Inc., Rio Tinto plc, among others.

3) This consulting firm advises companies, governments and people in the national and provincial political arena, and they designed the electoral campaign for the present President Nestor Kirchner.

4) It is worth remembering that the mining company remains in Esquel, with offices and a storage site. Local government has not withdrawn its "outsourcing" of the deposit, nor its commercial permits and the mining representatives produce ongoing conspiracies to enabbe it to be able to exploit the mine.

5 )The Provincial Law 5001 establishes in Article 1 that metal mining activities are banned in Chubut Province using open pit mining and cyanide leaching in mining production.

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